Matt Gianesses on the crucial role Chris Herndon will play in the 2020 New York Jets offense
In an ESPN interview from October 2019, Jets QB Sam Darnold said the Jets can be “unstoppable as an offense” once tight end Chris Herndon returns from a hamstring injury. Unfortunately, Herndon never truly returned. A broken rib concluded a carousel of injuries (and a suspension) Herndon dealt with in 2019. Herndon was essentially sidelined for the duration of the year, catching only 1 pass for 7 yards. It was a lost season. This was disappointing for fans of the organization, but more specifically Adam Gase, who clearly expected big things from the young tight end. “The Jets fully expected this guy to be a top-5, top-10 tight end last season.”, said the Athletic’s Connor Hughes in the latest Badlands podcast.Chris Herndon’s bond with Sam Darnold began well before week 1 of the 2018 season. Herndon and Darnold were actually roommates in mini/training camp. “Whenever we came home, either one of us had questions, especially me, because I’m the tight end, I just asked him. That kind of helped,” Herndon said. Their developed chemistry was evident, as Herndon finished his rookie campaign with 39 REC, 502 Yds, and 4 TDs. A very comparable season to All-Pro George Kittle’s rookie year (43 REC, 515 Yds, and 2 TDs).
The similarities between Herndon and Kittle don’t end just there. The two have almost identical measurables, at 6-4, 250 lbs., and pride themselves on their blocking abilities. A trait the Jets dearly missed last season. Adding another effective blocker is something the Jets desperately need, and replacing Daniel Brown & Ryan Griffin’s blocking with Chris Herndon’s will be a significant upgrade.
So, what can we expect of Herndon come 2020? If healthy, (blocking aside), Herndon presents the skillset to be a viable #2 target in the Jets offense (likely behind Jamison Crowder). In an offense that prioritizes the pass, Herndon will see quite a few thrown his way. Expecting a 1,000-yard season may be a stretch, but it’s fair to anticipate a relatively big jump in both yards and catches from his rookie year.
Along with Crowder, Herndon will split targets with Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman. The Jets hope to have both new players contribute this year, but their expectations will be reasonable given they were both acquired this offseason. Darnold has prior chemistry with Herndon, and has already expressed how comfortable he feels throwing to him.
“They viewed him as a guy that can get vertical. They viewed him as a guy who can run crisp routes. And they also viewed him as a guy who can block…So they had ridiculously high expectations for Chris Herndon entering the season,” says Connor Hughes. The expectations haven’t changed. Herndon is still just 24 years old. He has undeniable, unreached potential and has had only one season to showcase it so far. Don’t be surprised if 2020 is the year we see Chris Herndon put his name among the top tight ends in the league.